2) Formula One (Nov. 7 – 15, 2013)

2) Formula One
– Nov. 7 – 15, 2013

Blending in.

Blending in.

I’m writing this now [Saturday, November 16th] from a parking lot just east of Austin, Texas. We’ve been trying to get to the downtown of the city for a full week now, but certainly by tomorrow anyway we should be there, finally. We spent a night in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a week ago, and it being freezing cold, we decided to just drive straight south. ‘Austin’s supposed to be nice.’ I think one of us said that at some point, and this is the usual criteria and reasoning for us ending up anywhere. So South we drove, straight due south from Tulsa down the I-75, abandoning the Historic Route 66, which we had been following all the way from Chicago up until that point. More than two thousand kilometres away from home and it was still cold in Tulsa, that being the first week of November, a month of uncertainty, an interchange of seasons as the summer dwindled down and gave way for the death of winter.

I drove most of the day [Thursday, November 7th – continued from last entry] until we stopped only to sleep in a small and likely haunted town called Atoka, Oklahoma. There was an imagery there of pre-modern civilization conjured by dilapidated shanties, abandoned gas stations, and dirt roads, that, aside from the most roughneck Walmart I have ever patronized – vast aisles consisting almost entirely of alcohol, guns, and flat-screen televisions – would have positioned this blip on the timeline somewhere in the early 1900’s. Somewhere half an hour south, a Cherokee casino promoting upcoming events featuring names such as Loretta Lynn and Michael Bolton surely must have been the most local point of attraction. Onlookers stared unconsciously at our small Japanese vehicle towing our equally small 1987 Cadet camping trailer and it felt to me like we might as well have been alien beings descending on their village in an entirely unidentified spacecraft; interlopers from a more complicated time. After strange vibes at the Walmart, and then bottoming out the car in a massive pothole in a hotel parking lot, we settled for the night in a small gas station that sold alcohol twenty hours a day every day of the week, and was also a small casino in itself. We awoke to find that the adjoining parking lot had at some point early that morning become a transitory flea market, sometimes referred to as a “meat swap”, where quilts and food and who knows what else was being sold or bartered mostly out of pickup trucks. The gloom and desolation of the dark night prior now subsided, we paid for a shower at a truck stop where the water was not very hot but the people were quite friendly.

Photo on 2013-11-13 at 16.52

Haywood’s Hill, Del Valle, Texas

From Atoka we drove into Texas [Friday, November 8th] and unwittingly were caught, soon enough, in the 5 o’clock rush hour traffic of Dallas. We might have stopped in Dallas to check it out if it had not been for the traffic jam which took us almost two hours to get through, until Dallas was behind us. On we continued to Waco, which, at least from the highway, seemed a great sprawl of parking lots and superstores and fast food restaurants, and arriving in the dark, we pushed just a little bit further to get out of the din and distraction of its consumeristic superfluity to a town of virtually opposite proportions called Leanor.

Leanor was a time capsule of virgin innocence compared to the light and noise of Waco, and we slept in “the parking lot” – I think there was only one – near a grocery store, where I bought a brick of cheese, a loaf of bread, and an obnoxiously large single can of beer, all for $6.00. A block over, a single street consisting of their police station, fire station, post office, and a few touristy stores offering artistic knick-knacks and miscellany comprised their entire downtown. If you are ever in Leanor, Bruce will keenly tour you through his large store front called The Village Lamp Lighter, which sits adjacent to his attached house, where he sells personally handcrafted lamps and light fixtures from various mediums. He was born in Leanor and he and his wife have kept that store open for forty-five years. Aside from that, a few semi-paved roads led to peoples’ homes and ranches, the public school, the high school, a sports complex, and the water tower. This is the town of Leanor, Texas.


Haywood’s Hill

Keep in mind that our destination from Tulsa was Austin, which is a full day’s drive, but we were in no rush, and this was now the third day of not quite arriving [Saturday, November 9th]. We decided to prolong our arrival another day in order to pay for an actual campsite outside of town. This would allow us to regroup, organize the car, have showers, and use the internet, all in the warm weather that we had set out to find more than a week prior, however, after a few hours and three failed attempts to find campsites or RV parks with vacancy, we once again slept in a Walmart parking lot, in a town just north of Austin called Georgetown.

Eventually on the fourth morning en route to Austin [Sunday, November 10th], we found a KOA site – where we have a 10% discount card for any location, but their higher prices render the savings moot – and one day at the Leandor KOA campground quickly turned into two [10th and 11th], as we had spent the past eight days or so mostly sitting in the car and sleeping for free in various parking lots and rest stops, all in basically freezing weather. So now, finding the warmth we had sought after, we treated ourselves to the luxury of settling in to one place for more than a single night. I played my guitar for the first time in about a month – a very long break for me ordinarily, but the past month had been an onslaught of tying up dozens and perhaps hundreds of loose ends in order to break free from my former life as a real estate salesperson and all of its outlying responsibilities. I swam in the KOA swimming pool which had been closed for the season and was probably no more than fifty degrees Fahrenheit, but the owners of the park didn’t mind “as long as I didn’t mind the temperature”. I didn’t. I was swimming in an outdoor swimming pool on the same day that people from back home were writing to tell us that the first snowfall had just occurred. We video-chatted with my five year old daughter Charlotte back home two nights in a row. We went through every single object and article that we had dragged with us all the way from Ontario, Canada, and decided more clearly whether or not we would need these items. I think we got rid of three large black garbage bags of “stuff” that Kat and I together decided had been unnecessary after all. It had been hard to plan what to bring and what not to bring when leaving home, and so erring on the side of caution, we had brought more than we would need rather than less. But now, in our two days of relaxation, we had clear heads, warm weather, and ample time to more accurately gauge our decisions, and in doing so perhaps shed forty or fifty pounds worth of things now deemed by us to be unnecessary. We’re still carting a large bag of clothing that we decided to give away, to see if we can find another meat swap at which to soon sell the articles. There was so much excess clothing it seemed a shame to just give it all away for free, when, if we held out a week or two, might be able to sell some of it for one or two dollars a piece. We also had bought a coffee maker which ran on 12V power from my car, but turned out to take almost forty minutes to brew a very bitter pot of coffee. It was replaced in the Georgetown Walmart by a French press we purchased for twenty dollars, and now the car-powered model waits to hopefully be swapped somehow, sometime, soon. I do not recommend this product to anyone.

Don Haywood

Don Haywood!

On the first night at the Leandor KOA [the 10th] we met Jason. He approached me in the dark while I was carrying away dishes that I had just washed in the sink of the men’s room, and I thought he might be somebody telling me to next time please wash my dishes elsewhere. I was however incorrect. Jason was a man of probably less than forty years of age. He spoke persuasively about his upcoming endeavour to run a campsite near a racetrack for Austin’s upcoming Formula One race, an event held only once a year – at this location at least – and which would bring in somewhere around a hundred thousand people from literally all over the world. Jason would be renting some property nearby the track and had for months been booking RV and campsite reservations for the fans who would be clamouring in to town on the third weekend of November, two thousand and thirteen, for this grand spectacle of excess.

Formula One, I had soon after learned from its fans (as Kat and I were both hitherto quite unaware of its speculations and parameters), was an international affair, and had only more recently caught on in the United States, who still clung dear to their traditional Nascar races. But if the object was gross excess at all angles – and it was – Formula One seemed to hold the trump. It truly was, and is, the fastest, loudest, farthest reaching, and most expensive race in the entire history of the world. Sometimes more is still more. To cite a few facts I picked up over the following days: a single car was worth about two hundred million dollars; it could drive from zero to one hundred MILES per hour and then back to zero again in only five seconds; the drivers wore braces around their torsos to prevent their ribs from breaking at the turns; in a straightaway a car could reach speeds of about two hundred and forty miles per hour – four times the speed limit of most interstates and expressways; and from the campsite located two full miles from the track where I would soon stay for two consecutive nights [not until Thursday the 14th and Friday the 15th], the sound of the engines was clear and unrivalled. This event would draw tens of thousands of people from every corner of the world, from Texas locals who scrounged up just barely enough money for their tickets and lodging in order to gain admission, to powerful oil Sheiks and world class celebrities. Over the course of the coming weekend and the days leading up to it, dozens of helicopters would fill the skies, and Del Valle Texas, just outside the city of Austin, would shift from a sleepy rural farmland into a state of sheer pandemonium, where tens of thousands of fans would each spend thousands of dollars just to bear witness to this monument of scale and proportion.

Left, RJ's BBQ - good tacos!; Right, you can't swing a stick in here without hitting a pinata!

Left, RJ’s BBQ – good tacos!; Right, you can’t swing a stick in here without hitting a pinata!

Jason was a man with a plan – or at least half of one. He had a spirit of venture and had picked up on an opportunity which will no doubt soon be followed by many others over the years to come. The race track at Del Valle was only two years old, and the area before that time was total farmland. Many ranchers had happily found their property values increase exponentially over the past couple of years as a world scale track was erected in their very backyards. Jason, in the first year of the Formula One race, had rented some farmland a couple miles from the track in order to rent it forward to campers coming to town for the race. The object was simple in nature, and beautiful in its simplicity. This now would be the second year of his venture, and we learned soon enough that he had obtained a second property along with the original first – the second and newer location literally backing on to the track, with clear visibility, and deafening proximity. To give this venture some scale, he had secured about a hundred reservations averaging two to four people per reservation, and his highest paying customer was charged six thousand dollars for an RV site of twenty five by seventy feet, with just water and electric hook up services, from Wednesday at noon until Monday at noon – more than a thousand dollars per day. All this was learned after Kat and I agreed to volunteer our time to help him out, for no pay, in exchange for a camp site with utility hook ups. He said he’d let us use his WiFi hotspot too, since we asked. Having been on the road for just more than one week, and with no other plans pending, we agreed that this sounded like an opportunity not to miss.

After about two hours of organizing the client packages the night prior, we couldn’t wait to head off to camp to greet the arriving guests [Tuesday, November 12th]. Jason gave us directions to the “Platinum Retreat” site located right next to the track. We arrived and discovered that there were only two active water spouts on the ten acre property, and no electricity save a couple exterior plug outlets coming from the owner’s house. It was then – not days prior in our first conversations – that Jason told us that we would be helping him to assemble the water and electrical systems from scratch, but not till Wednesday. The owner of the house was a very generous and gentle man named Don Haywood, an ex-cop now retired in his late fifties. He allowed us to run four extension cables, one to the next, from his house all the way to our trailer, hundreds of feet away – the temperature was to drop to near-freezing that night, and the next night, too – so at least, at Don’s expense, we could run our electric space heater through the night.

Wednesday [November 13th] was a solid nine hour working day in the blistering wind of the countryside. Jason worked us hard, and we barely had time to eat or rest whatsoever. This was not in alignment to his earlier encouragements, which by now we realized had been somewhat vague in description, saying that we would just “help sign people in…maybe clean up here and there if needed… and just have a good time”, but it was in a way fun to help set things up for all the campers who were now beginning to arrive, and I didn’t mind the outdoor exercise, so all in all it was fine. Still, this was the beginning of our realization that we might be getting the short end of the stick on this exchange. Two days in and hours and hours of hard work later, and Jason, aside from letting us use his WiFi hotspot and offering us a bit of BBQ food that he was ordering for himself already anyways, had yet to offer us a single thing – we were staying on Don’s property and using Don’s electricity and water. Again, we were in it for the experience, and the experience was still new, so for this reason alone I didn’t really mind. I think we slept about eleven hours that night.

Biking in Leanor! Cute town!

Biking in Leanor! Cute town!

Thursday morning [the 14th] we awoke at eight a.m. to Jason knocking on our trailer door. When your entire living space is 6′ x 9′ with barely enough room to stand up in, somebody knocking on that trailer door is not so different from them physically shaking you awake in the privacy of your own bed. Kat and I live with little expectations but do require a modicum of privacy, something that others unfortunately neither embrace for themselves nor observe out of decency towards us. So Jason knocking on our door at eight o’clock in the morning after a nine hour day of free physical labour to ask “Where are the zip ties?” was needless to say unwelcome. I believe this was the first of our considerations to just pack up and silently leave. After telling him I never had the zip ties to begin with, I lay back down, only for him to knock again five minutes later, asking, “Can I borrow that frying pan?” – he pointed to a pan that was already outside of our trailer and was obviously not currently being used by us or anybody else. Another consideration to leave without notice – both silently to ourselves and also expressed out loud, only to each other. But we had actually met and even somewhat connected with most of the campers who had signed in earlier the day before, and it was this experience of meeting the campers who had arrived with great enthusiasm for the impending race that made us want to stay. There were a lot of really friendly people, all happy to be there and happy to talk with us. There was all kinds there, from a couple who owned a hotel in a ski resort area and showed up in a giant Prevost bus that probably cost a couple hundred thousand dollars, to a single guy who arrived in a cab with nothing but a small tent and a few supplies in his backpack. All of them could unite under the excitement of The Race. I put my clothes on and came out of the trailer saying something like ‘We put in a lot of work yesterday and we don’t even really mind doing it for free but please don’t knock on our door or wake us up again’. Awake now, we drove in to town to get away from the site for a little bit and have our slow morning – we are both good for long days of busy work, so long as we have our slow and peaceful wake-up morning ritual.

view (1)

Our view of Formula One, Austin (Del Valle) Texas, November 2013

When we got back to the campsite, still that same morning [still the14th], I began to make breakfast and coffee for Kat and I, when Jason rushed up and said that we needed to move to the other camp site – about two miles from where we were – to begin setting it up. I said that we would, once we had our breakfast and packed up our stuff. I could tell he was trying to rush us, but I defused his attempts with calm reassurances that we would go as soon as we were ready. He ran off, but came running back not ten minutes later before we had even had a chance to eat. “I really need you to get over to the other site. I need you there to sign people in, like, right now.” This, ten minutes after he had already asked us to go, and noticeably before we had had the chance to eat the breakfast that I was just about ready to serve. His sentences from here forward most often began with the words “I need”. Very little, Kat and I know, is needed in this world or in this life. People NEED to eat once in a while. People NEED to sleep once in a while. People NEED water basically every day. There is very little more that anybody can truly say that they NEED, so it becomes glaringly obvious to both of us quickly when somebody asserts their wants as needs. It is a lower quality found in lower people, a pathetic attempt to control others made more pathetic by its transparency to anybody who will not submit as an inferior beneath them. By now, all of his sentences sounded the same to us: “I need you to do my work for me, for free. I need you to do my work for me, for free…” Well, we didn’t quit our jobs and give up our apartment and all of its luxuries and drive thousands of miles from home to have somebody say to us “I need, I need, I need”. I told him not to rush us, not now, or again. We would leave as soon as we were ready, as I had already stated. Don Haywood, owner of the property being rented by Jason, was the first person of many more to come to actually verbalize to us: ‘You’ve got to set limits for yourselves, or he’ll take advantage of your generosity.’ Good guy, that Don Haywood.

The other camp site was half set up when we got there, and being minimally maintained by an actual paid employee of Jason’s – the ONLY paid employee I’m pretty sure – who seemed to work dispassionately and to accomplish about half of what either one of us was doing at any given moment. I really didn’t care at all what he accomplished or how quickly, but it was clear to the campers at both sites that Kat and I were the only ones around with positive attitudes or genuine interest in their being there and being happy. And as the campers continued to file in, it became clearer and clearer to us, and to the campers at this “Off Site Location”, that Jason’s motivations were entirely financial, which would be understandable since it was his business, except that there was no capacity to be found in him whatsoever for concern of the happiness of those who had paid to be there, and his attentiveness to his client base fell hard downwards into nothingness as soon as one was fully paid up to be there. There was noticeable favouritism paid toward certain higher paying clients, to whom the rules seemed not to apply, while most others were ignored, their smaller amounts of money already received. We heard numerous comments – some directed right to us in conversation, and some simply within earshot around us – that “Jason was quick to answer the phone before we had signed up, but now can’t be reached for any reason”. The vast majority of those there couldn’t even conceive of the idea of us working for free, especially those who had seen us setting up and running around all day long on Wednesday; there were a very small number of others who were frustrated by Jason’s sudden absence now that they had arrived but needed this-or-that-or-the-other, and who could not help but to associate Kat and I with their misdirected frustrations which should have been aimed at Jason. We were highly apologetic when they needed something that we did not have the information or direction to help them with, and when we told them they would have to call Jason to sort it out, they were angered – most of them had already tried calling, and had left messages on his phone that had not yet been returned. Again, this was a very small number of people, maybe one per cent – most realized without anything being said by either of us that we were just there to help out, were not being paid, and were given insufficient guidance to operate the entire second campsite by ourselves. The paid employee had left soon after we arrived that day, and we never saw him again.

Jason showed up eventually. He made a bad joke about how he wasn’t going to rush me, and I incorrectly hoped that this was the end of his selfish pressuring, a clean slate and a starting-over after an awkward morning of boundary-setting. He remained at the Off Site Location for a couple of hours, and then gave me a list of things to do, saying “I’ve got some meetings I’ve got to get to now”. Kat and I and the campers at this second site would not see him again until Saturday morning, almost two full days later, very much hungover, inexpressive, and in just as much of a rush to leave us again as before.

Messages to him were not being returned, and it was obvious to everyone without us having to point it out to them that we had all been left high and dry at this second, and less expensive, camp site, located about two miles from the track. Others had paid significantly more to be at the closer camp site, and it was presumed that Jason had been over there, but we didn’t know.

KOA Leandor Texas

KOA Leandor Texas

More and more people signed in, and the RV spots were basically full. There were confusions surrounding the fact that Jason had promised certain people they could have certain RV spots in the park, but had not relayed the information to us, so when these people arrived they found that their spots were already taken, and initially took it out on us, until they too, quickly realized where the true fault lay.

On the positive side, we met a ton of great people, and some of whom we have plans to see again on our journeys. There was Nancy and Eric – Nancy’s mother lived in northern California and apparently “loved house guests”. Nancy gave us her contact and said we could stay at her mother’s when we arrived out west. There was Luc and Jake, twin brothers in their early twenties, huge Nascar fans whom we befriended and who invited us to contact them when we got to their home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico. There was Ron, whose loud generator irritated the surrounding campers, but he himself barely made a sound. He worked for Circuit of the Americas on the race track, and truly loved his work. There was Kevin Sr. and Kevin Jr., and Kevin Jr.’s friend Ferd (not Fred), all pleasant and friendly people, though Kevin Sr. was unbelievably drunk the entire time that we saw him, morning noon and night, including when they first signed in at the front gate. Ferd was a medic in the Navy and a good guy to get to know. There were “the Matt’s” – three guys in their late 20’s all named Matt who had driven in shifts for 24 consecutive hours from Minnesota to arrive at the Off Site Location, all very friendly and just happy to be there. There was Brad, who drove in without a reservation, to ask what was going on. I gave him the lowest price I could find from a previous invoice to let him park his RV and stay for the weekend, and he seemed so happy to be there, as he had come to Formula One from Dallas in his RV with no plans on where he might stay. He immediately offered that Kat and I come visit him and his wife in Dallas some time, and that he’d take us out to a Dallas Stars game.

Then there were those who had travelled far in airplanes just for the race, the furthest being a guy from Sydney, Australia. There was a group from Ireland, a group from Norway – “the Norgies” as they put it, a couple from Scotland, at least two groups from England… and people from all over the United States. All sorts of people from all over the world, all here in this camp site, all week long, to witness the same race, which itself would not last longer than two hours.

And there was Benji, a highly energetic spirit with very much to express from his numerous lives consisting of various careers and adventures; who had for a time lived intentionally as a hobo; who gained vast insights from living under bridges, in vans, in tents in the desert; who woke up every day at 4am and “barely slept”; who had earned as much as $30 an hour emptying porta-potties and septic systems “because nobody wants to clean up shit”; who existed for a time in Las Vegas for free, as a drifter who could swoop in anonymously on free buffets, and have free drinks in the casinos where he would spend absolutely no money. He said that “Las Vegas is an amazing fantasy land that nobody would ever want to visit as a normal person”; that “It is an impressive symbol of modern civilization in all of its excess and waste”. He now lives in Washington D.C. with his wife, as a life coach, while building up his own business as a consultant for off-the-grid energy systems – a business that he says has been booming and only growing larger since the “2000” scare of 1999. Benji is more prepared for apocalyptic events of crisis than anybody I have personally met, and though he lives in a house in D.C., the Mercedes touring van he arrived and could comfortably live in had been custom refigured to operate on solar power with the most sophisticated instruments of our time, and was fully stacked with lifesaving energy supplies of all kinds. He offered us a wealth of information the very second that we expressed interest in his endeavour – I audio-recorded our first two conversations which total about an hour of him just talking and us just listening, because it was too much to take in aurally. I will have to go through those recordings and make notes later on. We told him that he was such an interesting person, to which he replied, “It’s just such an interesting world”.We have stayed in touch with him via email since our meeting in person, and will continue to stay in touch with him; he is a veritable fountainhead of knowledge, a sincerely helpful person, and all-around interesting human being.

There were countless others, and I wish I could remember them all by name.

Leanor, Texas

Leanor, Texas

By Friday [the 15th] afternoon, it had been a full twenty-four hours since we had seen or heard from Jason. Never once was it mentioned or even implied that we would be manning an entire campground by ourselves, finding solutions to problems we were not responsible for, or working full days without supervision or assistance. But here we were. We were woken again earlier on, for the second consecutive morning, by a knock at our trailer door. It was just somebody who wanted a camping space for the weekend and needed to register to be there. It wasn’t their fault for finding and waking us. They had simply arrived, and somebody who had already signed in had pointed them in our direction. We were literally putting in 8-12 hour days, every day, and this had been going on for four days now, the night prior having gone by without so much as hearing from Jason. There was also supposed to be free fire wood for all of the campers, and the pile had dwindled down to nothing as of late last night. People were now coming to me throughout the day asking me when there would be more firewood. To this, and to any of their questions by this point, I replied, “You’ll have to call Jason.” Of course I knew that their calls would not be answered, nor their messages returned, but in this process, I figured perhaps that if Jason received enough calls and messages that he would feel the pressure of having to respond eventually. He knew that Kat and I didn’t have phones, and I never bothered to e-mail him for two reasons: that it was not our job to seek him out in any way (he shouldn’t have left us there without notice in the first place), and that if he wasn’t responding to his own clients’ messages, he definitely wasn’t going to respond to ours. Eventually somebody mentioned that they had gone over to the other “Platinum Retreat” site the night before, and that Jason had been drunk beyond basic recognition. He seemed, they said, to be having “a good time”.

Now none of this is to say that Kat and I were NOT having a good (if more sober) time ourselves – we were. We had connected with dozens of people who were all ecstatic about the impending race, and whose ecstasy to us was contagious. It was for them that we didn’t mind working as much as we had been worked. But there was a principle issue, that Jason had by all evidence clearly deceived us as to how much work we would be expected to do, and then left us to fend for ourselves for an indefinite period of time (now exceeding a full day) without warning, so that he could go get wasted at the expensive camp site with the Big Deal clients. There was also an imminent concern: that we had spent nine hours setting up just ONE of the two camp sites on Wednesday, and that by Monday BOTH sites would need to be dismantled. We were not told by Jason in advance that we would need to help set up the Platinum site, so it stood to reason that we would not have been told about his wanting us to do tear-down and clean-up with him on Monday, after the campers pulled away to go home, leaving garbage across two full campsites (several acres), and water and electrical systems to be undone. The campers did not have to leave until Monday at noon, but even if we started cleaning up before that in the morning, it would mean a full day of working into the late dark hours before every job had been done. This, as it occurred to us on Friday, would be too much to expect from us. Our fun and social experiences aside, we knew that we had already worked too hard to earn a meagre campsite with some water and electricity for a few days, and were not going to even entertain the idea of another full day of tear-down. At some point on Friday evening, we decided between ourselves that this would be our last night at the campgrounds. The race was not to happen until the early afternoon on Sunday, but we planned that at some point on Saturday, the day before the race, we would quietly pack our things, saying nothing of it to anybody, and leave without a trace.

It was this secret decision made on Friday to bail on Saturday that we gained a new energy from the thrill of disappearing completely. It was a Friday night in a campground full of race car fanatics in Texas two days before a preposterously gigantic race, and I was King of the whole place, Kat my Queen. There was more than a hundred people there and we had got to know almost every single one of them. I felt like the star of a John Hughes coming-of-age film, and for reasons unknown to everyone there except the two of us, tonight was going to be a celebration of southern proportions. I went in to the woods with a hand saw, the only saw I had brought with me, and started hacking apart dead limbs on the ground. There was still no fire wood, but we were going to have a fire. Kat and I had decided earlier on that instead of several private and individual fire pits – like the ones from the night before – we would persuade as many people we could into attending, and contributing to, a massive bonfire, which we made preparations for in the very middle of the entire camp ground. We began building a large open ground fire with as much wood as I could gather. It was then that we realized some people had hoarded some of the free wood from the night before, and they began to contribute. As I was still hacking away at some of the dead limbs from the forest with my hand saw, somebody approached me saying, “I’ve got a chainsaw in my trunk”, to which I heard another reply, “Only at an event like this would you hear a sentence like that.” Sure enough, out came the chainsaw. And then somebody else found a pile of skids – wooden pallets – by an outbuilding on the property. The skids were promptly chainsawed into chunks of more firewood.

The community bonfire commenced. It seemed like the night before everybody had basically kept to themselves, but now, through the common connection of knowing Kat and I, everybody seemed to be coming together, throwing in wood to the increasingly large pile of blazing wood, and gathering around it. It worked on the common principle that if you light a big fire, people will come and stand around in a circle. It was something unexplained and primitive, the same principle which led people to pay threefold for waterfront property versus property that was landlocked. Fire and Water. Curious elements. We primates circled round, and eventually – I have no idea how early or late into the night it was, a truck stopped and delivered more free firewood, which was quickly consumed. Jason must have finally responded to one of those messages by sending – not personally albeit – some wood. There was also a neighbouring woman from another property who eventually caught on and started coming by with wheelbarrows full of firewood, which she was selling for $5 a pile. I think she made out alright that evening. The fire grew, and even grew out of control to an extent, catching some of the yellow-brown grass on fire at some points. Once I tried to snuff out a burning patch of it with a jug of water but came too close to the blaze and it singed my hair a little bit – a funny story now that I am still safe and not charred to a crisp.

The night went on, and there was a bittersweet feeling, to me at least, that this would be our last one here. I’m sure that there were more nights like these on Saturday and Sunday, even bigger and better perhaps, but we wouldn’t know. Kat consoled me in the knowing that something like this can only last so briefly, and that trying to recapture or prolong it would be more depressing than simply walking away at a high point. For a day and a night, we ruled this campsite, and I believe that it was to the benefit of everybody there. These were the experiences we were hoping to capture when leaving our home, and a good thing must be let go before too long, lest the capture itself smother and wither it away. I am grateful to have spent that last night with as many people there as we possibly could have; I could ask nothing more.

Formula One Race Track (view from Platinum Retreat Camp Site)

Our view of the track

Saturday [the 16th] morning came, and in rolled Jason. We had been hoping to leave without seeing him again – his prolonged absence being part of the reason we were leaving in the first place. I believe from bits of information we heard that Jason had been on a strong bender of alcohol and who knows what else since some time Thursday night, and was likely still in mid swing of it when he came back to check in on us. The first sentence that came out of his mouth when we saw him for the first time in almost two full days was yet another incentive to leave in secret as soon as possible. “You got that money?” He was referring to $20 I had collected from somebody who wanted an extra parking space for an extra car. He had disappeared on us roughly forty hours ago, without warning or mention as to when he would return, after over-working us in exchange for a bit of water and electricity – something that we can more often than not find for free – and returning drunk and failing to even say hello or explain where he’d been went straight into his fractured hooligan query, “You got that money?” I gave him $20, and he said, “That’s it? I charge $90 for those permits.” $90. He charged $90 for a single parking space for a car. We had driven around and noticed that the going rate of other lots was typically $20. I told him that I had referred to an invoice of his from a previous client and that person had paid $20, so I charged $20. He gestured a simian shrug and shoved the bill in his pocket. He made another, increasingly self-embarrassing, cheap shot about how he wasn’t trying to rush me, and after a few minutes rolled around, left again. Everybody at the camp site seemed to have headed off to watch the qualifying races.

We packed up our things, lifted the legs on the Cadet, and rolled out of there, quiet and unobserved. Thanks for the memories.


One thought on “2) Formula One (Nov. 7 – 15, 2013)

  1. Great story, beautifully written. As my Uncle Jim once spoke “…life ain’t no dress rehearsal Paul… ” I’m so glad you two have the strength and vision to see that life is meant to be experienced… Enjoy every moment guys. Paul

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